ÉRIC LEBÉDEL

ÉRIC LEBÉDEL

Tue, 07/02/2019 - 10:30

France's ambassador on mavrud, border areas and difficult-to-pronounce Bulgarian place names

eric lebedel.jpg

French Ambassador Éric Lebédel has lived in Sofia for almost three years, during which time he has managed not only to upkeep his duties as France's envoy to Bulgaria but also to travel extensively throughout the country, including to locations that are off the radar of even the most intrepid travellers. What are the most fascinating ones?

The border areas. Along a country's borders you can observe the clash of civilisations, the intermingling of peoples and histories. We like the Danube River a lot. We like all the towns and cities along the Bulgarians section of the Danube, but I can point out one small place, not directly on the riverside, but near it: Kyuchukaynardzha. It is now a tiny village but its historical significance is enormous. This is where, in 1774, the first signs of the decline of the Ottoman Empire emerged. I would strongly encourage people to go and visit because of its impact on European history: the Russian Empress Catherine II concluded a treaty with Ottoman Sultan Mustafa III that allowed for the Russian annexation of Crimea, ensured Russian ships could sail in Ottoman waters and, most significantly, Russia would protect the rights of Orthodox Christians within the empire. It was a treaty that had resounding consequences for the whole of Europe, including obviously Bulgaria.

We explored the Strandzha along the Turkish border. The small village of Brashlyan has the best Banitsa in the world.

Zlatograd in the Rhodope is fascinating. We can still remember the coffee prepared in a pot of sand.

And the Samuil Fortress near the borders with Greece and North Macedonia is also very interesting mainly for its history. Nearby there is another very interesting location: Rupite. Baba Vanga, the clairvoyant, used to live there. Now there is a church there, decorated by the famous Bulgarian painter Svetlin Rusev.

We have also been fascinated by two Muslim shrines, or Türbe: the one near Isperih, Demir Baba Tekke, and Ak Yazili Baba Tekke near Balchik. The latter is also used as a Christian shrine called St Anastas. But these are an entirely different story.

Éric Lebédel, French Ambassador to Bulgaria

I'm very impressed. You name locations and stories that not very many Bulgarians know anything about.

I'm reading Vagabond, Bulgaria's English Magazine. Unfortunately, I have not been able to visit all the bridges that you have written about.

When you return to France you could easily start a business as a tour guide to Bulgaria. But are there things that you would advise French people to be careful about whilst in Bulgaria? Are there any pitfalls?

What I warn my friends when they come here is to bear in mind that Bulgarians are not Mediterranean. French people should not expect talkative passers-by. Bulgarians tend to keep to themselves.

If a visitor should only have a limited amount of time, they should of course explore Sofia and the environs. Go to Vitosha Mountain, visit Dragalevski Monastery. Enjoy the cuisine and the red wines, especially the Mavrud – which we don't have in France.

Aznavour in Sofia

With Charles Aznavour in Sofia

 

Speaking of which, is there anything in Bulgarian cuisine that has impressed you?

Apart from the Mavrud, which is excellent, I have taken to Kapama, the Bansko local specialty that combines sour cabbage with several kinds of meat. But it is best taken in the middle of winter when it is very cold outside.

You've spent almost three years in Bulgaria now. Do you think that Bulgaria is now a better place than when you first arrived?

There have been two significant developments. After its first EU presidency, which was very positive, I had the feeling that Bulgaria gained some self-confidence. Before that, I had heard many times Bulgarians complaining that they had nothing to bring to Europe, that they were at the periphery of things and so on. But after the presidency Bulgaria appeared as if it had shifted to the centre of Europe.

Euxinograd President Macron 2017

With French President Emmanuel Macron in Euxinograd Residence near Varna

The second development regards France and Bulgaria. Bulgaria is now much better known in France. French President Emmanuel Macron came twice, and many French government ministers have also visited. The French people have noted the amount of sympathy that Bulgarians expressed following the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral – and that was not only owing to the hypothesis that the 19th century Bulgarian builder Kolyu Ficheto had something to do with the construction of the church.

Now you can see a lot more French people in Sofia and elsewhere. There are young French people coming to work in the IT sector here.

How did this happen? What made them leave France?

They made the rational decision that the cost of living and the quality of life here would improve for them if they moved over and started working locally.

You've named a few positive developments, but has it all been like that?

Climate change has dug in. Look at the weather in June. Of course, this is not the fault of the EU, but Bulgaria is now a part of it.

French Ambassador Éric Lebédel

Visiting Bulgarian students

 

Artist Thierry Noir

With artist Thierry Noir in Plovdiv

 

Issue 153
0 comments

Add new comment

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
3 + 8 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.

Discover More

Philippe Rouvrais
PHILIPPE ROUVRAIS: HOW TO SUCCEED IN TURBULENT TIMES
2020 is a year that forced almost all businesses of importance to redefine their business model in order to survive and even to grow. The IT outsourcing sector is one of the most interesting cases.

Ilonka Raychinova
ILONKA RAYCHINOVA: TAXES MATTER
Nobody likes paying taxes.

P1422193.jpg
NANCY SCHILLER: PHILANTHROPY IN ACTION
Since her arrival four years ago Nancy Schiller has become a well-known personality through Bulgaria.

 (3)_800x600.jpg
SAFECHARGE: WELCOME TO THE FUTURE
As in any crisis, there is a silver lining in the Covid-19 outbreak. The unexpected situation forced individuals and businesses to quickly adapt to the new environment of balancing between protecting public health and staying active.

marieta-yordanova-megasmart.jpg
MARIETA YORDANOVA: UNLEASHING NATURE'S HEALING POTENTIAL
Creating your own company in a field that is still new on the Bulgarian market asks for boldness, the inevitable leap of faith and the will to overcome obstacles to succeed. Marieta Yordanova knows this well.

Radoslav Nedelchev.jpg
RADOSLAV NEDELCHEV: REINVENTING ADVERTISEMENT
Digital advertisement is everywhere nowadays, but it – and customers' behaviour, is changing so rapidly that even established companies and brands struggle to utilise fully its potential.

Blagovest Kirilov.jpg
UNLEASHING THE POTENTIAL OF SERVICES MANAGEMENT OPTIMIZATION
OutsourceBG Services is a Bulgarian company focused on providing high quality tailored IT, information, management and consulting serv

Dimitrios Chronopoulos and Efi Katopi.jpg
DIMITRIOS CHRONOPOULOS & EFI KATOPI
If there is a single trick to open up people's hearts and minds for Greece and things Greek it is Portokalopita, the deliciously different Greek pastry which combines in almost neoclassical proportions shredded phyllo with orange and cinnamon syrup

georgi lozanov 2.jpg
ON COMMUNISM, ANTI-COMMUNISM AND WHAT COMES AFTER
Among his many interests Communism – and what supersedes it – has had a special place on his rostrum.

Irena Joteva.jpg
IRENA JOTEVA: THE ART OF STAYING RELEVANT IN CHANGING TIMES
New technologies have changed the way we work, entertain ourselves, do shopping. They have also changed the way companies work. New regulations and professions are appearing, entire business sectors are transforming beyond recognition.

irit lillian.jpg
IRIT LILLIAN
I have known Irit Lillian, the outgoing Israeli ambassador, since before she actually came to Bulgaria in her official capacity.

ivo dikov architect.jpg
ARCHITECT IVO DIKOV: BUILDING FUTURE
Architect Ivo Dikov is the embodiment of the rule that youth and success can go together.